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New Laws Help To Protect Students From Identity Theft

identitytheftpreventionDid you know that college students are five times more likely to be a victim of identity theft than just about anyone else? In fact, an FTC study showed that people in their twenties log the most identity theft complaints. It’s not that thieves are targeting students; think of campus identity theft as a crime of circumstance. Close quarters plus lax security across student devices means virtual pickpockets have it easy. And where once a thief took a gamble when snagging a smartphone for this kind of info pilfering, innovations like the quad core processor and mobile network advances have made every student’s phone a hot repository for sensitive information.

Data that all too often exists unprotected on student smartphones. Not downloading any security software is one thing, not even using the built-in password protection is another – but many college students are guilty of both. That’s what makes California’s new smartphone kill switch law so important. Right now, most smartphones can’t be remotely locked or wiped if they’re stolen unless the owner has downloaded third party security software. There are plenty of apps on the market and yet up until just recently very few devices came with anti-theft features enabled or even standard.

But when the new law takes effect, all smartphones sold within California’s borders as of July 2015 will have to ship with the ability to render the device unusable in the event of theft – either with a hardware or software solution. More importantly, the built-in kill switch will be opt-out instead of opt-in and the lockout will be reversible. That’s especially good news for students using phones as auxiliary data storage and their apps as study tools.

If you’re thinking that the new law won’t impact your risk of identity theft, think again! The passage of the California law is making waves across the nation. Some manufacturers have already started adding software-based switches on devices, and officials in other states and even other countries have argued for new laws mandating kill switches. That’s not all that surprising when you consider that the original law received widespread support from law enforcement agencies and prosecutors who believed it would reduce smartphone thefts.

And they’re probably right. After Apple added a kill switch to its devices in 2013, iPhone theft dropped dramatically in New York, San Francisco and London. Samsung devices can also be remotely bricked. Now Qualcomm, maker of the Snapdragon processor, is releasing a hardware-based security solution called Safeswitch that allows remote locking with full reversal if the device is recovered.

This may all seem, well, academic to students who don’t have much in the way of credit or funds. But as today’s student is using their phone to pay bills, settle up at the checkout, access bank accounts and university information, and for nearly all communication, tomorrow’s identity thief is planning their next move. Giving thieves instant access to all your personal data is as easy as leaving your phone unlocked on a café table while you walk to the counter for a refresh. And the information they take from you can damage your credit and finances not only in the short term but for years after the theft takes place.

So don’t wait for the law to take effect if you’re in California or for a similar law to be passed in your state. A little googling is all it takes to find solid security software (which may even be free) that can give you essential protection for your phone or tablet, as well as more than a little peace of mind.

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